The Georgia Association of Convenience Stores wins a few battles in the fight against human trafficking.
during a strategic planning session in 2016, Angela Holland, CAE, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, agreed with a young professionals group that said one organizational focus of GACS should be philanthropy. But what would that look like? Thinking about the Super Bowl a few months later, Holland had a clear answer.
The charitable nonprofit In Our Backyard has successfully spotlighted the problem of human trafficking in the United States, especially around big-ticket international events like the Super Bowl. With the big game coming to Atlanta in early 2019, GACS decided to pursue a partnership with the group. That effort, called Convenience Stores Against Trafficking, earned the association a Power of A Summit Award this year from ASAE.
Convenience store employees are well positioned to assist in addressing human trafficking, Holland says, because such stores are among the few places where victims may be seen in public. Interest in the program among GACS members was swift and enthusiastic.
“We signed up 17 companies and almost 300 stores,” she says. “And the weekend before the Super Bowl, we had about 400 volunteers engaged to spread the message in convenience stores.” Those volunteers distributed books with photographs of missing children to convenience store and truck stop employees and deposited stickers with emergency contact information in restrooms.
The impact of GACS’s effort has been remarkable: By late May, 29 of the 34 children listed in the book had been recovered, and multiple trafficking victims received assistance.
Holland credits the program’s success with GACS members in part to the materials In Our Backyard helped to create and distribute. But direct contact with members through an education session at its annual meeting was critical.
“We emailed constantly to inform as many retailers in our state as possible,” she says. “But I think the biggest driver was hosting the educational session at the tradeshow, where there was actually hands-on training.”
GACS is keeping the program running, but it’s also working to pay its success forward. The 2020 Super Bowl will be played in Miami, and GACS has reached out its neighboring state to join the effort.
“We have invited the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association to a friendly challenge,” Holland says. “I hope they have better numbers and better stats next year than we have.”